Sales training: Building ‘tribal’ knowledge
  • sales
  • Blog post

Sales training: Building ‘tribal’ knowledge

In case anyone in your organization still needs to be convinced of the value of sales training, here’s new evidence: Data from a survey by the Aberdeen Group found that companies with formal sales training programs have a higher percentage of quota attainment, both at the individual salesperson level (64% vs. 42%) and overall (71% vs. 66%), and retain more customers (71% vs. 66%).

Those numbers aren’t surprising. I’ve blogged before about the abundance of evidence demonstrating the impact of training on sales results. What’s especially intriguing in this survey is the relationship between training and the sales culture.

One of the most powerful drivers of sales success, the study found, was having a process to collect and share “tribal knowledge” — for example, by creating a repository of sales best practices and tools, by capturing the institutional knowledge of veteran staff and by offering regular post-training reinforcement. This shared knowledge does more than build skills; it creates a sense of community within the sales force.

To my mind, creating this sort of “tribal” sales culture is one of the most powerful things that training can do.

Merriam-Webster defines a “tribe” as follows:

  • a group of people that includes many families and relatives who have the same language, customs, and beliefs
  • a large family
  • a group of people who have the same job or interest

That’s something that goes beyond the traditional relationship between a sales rep and a commission check. It suggests a sense of alignment, shared values and shared goals — a connectedness that eventually encompasses not only people within the company but its customers as well.

Examples of “tribal” cultures in business abound. Think of the “HP Way” that defined Hewlett-Packard to generations of salespeople, employees and buyers. Think of GE or a company like Enterprise Rent-a-Car. You’re not out there all on your own as a salesperson. You’re part of the tribe.

In a company with a “tribal” sales culture, it really means something to be in sales. Salespeople feel they’re in an environment that’s committed to their personal development — where growing the salesperson’s skill and knowledge is just as important as growing revenue. In that environment, good salespeople are inspired to become great salespeople, and great salespeople wouldn’t consider going anywhere else. There’s a common approach and an underlying sense of values that can guide salespeople as they navigate the difficult waters of sales. A salesperson who belongs to a tribe is working for more than a paycheck; he or she is working to make the tribe stronger, because the tribe makes him or her stronger.

1 Comment

  • Brian Finley says:

    Great article, Michael. I agree that in this very challenging role as sales professionals, it is important that we feel that our job is part of our personal growth and being part of a company or brand that makes us feel valued is the best way to that. Companies investing in their employee’s skills and growth are those that are proven to be successful.They also are the companies that Invisume wants to have in its database. I am lucky that I joined. I found out that the best companies were in the database, the ones promoting personal growth. Thanks again for sharing your ideas, Michael! Will definitely read on for more.

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